GUEST COMMENTARY: Supporting third-party candidates could bring political change

Monday, August 27, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Every four years, as we wrap up the Summer Olympic Games and start discussing in earnest who we'll be voting for in November, the same sort of scenario plays out. There are two candidates presented to the people, Team Red vs. Team Blue. They usually begin the campaign with a few good selling points about themselves before turning over to an all-out smear campaign against their opponents. And come November, America usually ends up voting against the candidate they definitely don’t want in the White House rather than for the candidate they do.

We have justified this action to ourselves as voting for "the lesser of two evils." But why do we continue to resign ourselves to only two evil options for president, in a nation supposedly ruled by a democracy of the people?

This particular election cycle is especially unique in that the two front-runners — Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — are so similar on so many issues that it's hard to imagine which policies would be much different under Romney than what we have now with Obama.

Both candidates have records as big spenders, both supported the National Defense Authorization Act and the renewal of the Patriot Act. Their stances on health care, the economy and even gun control have been eerily similar in the past decade. Finally, their foreign policy is more-or-less identical, which is one we've held for too long: using war on ideologies that can’t be killed with any military technology as an excuse to war profiteer all over the globe.

So what are we to do as the little guy? Is the system really stacked against us? Is there really no hope but false commercial hope that doesn't really result in change? Only if you believe it is and respond as if it can’t be changed.

There is a candidate that is getting considerably less attention in the media who, if discovered, could be that catalyst for change in our worn-out system. That man is Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Johnson is everything that voters are looking for this cycle but so many don't know where to find: a fiscal conservative who is socially liberal.

Think about it. We're pinned into thinking it's all about Us vs. Them. Conservatives vs. Liberals, Democrats vs. Republicans, Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street. But the truth is, the majority of Americans are in the middle of these polarizing labels.

Think about the biggest grassroots-activist-powered issues in this country: environmentalists, gun rights advocates, feminists, drug-war critics, LGBTQ communities and their allies, civil rights activists, etc. All of us who care about an issue are encouraged to support these micro-causes and thus, we are separated from each other and systematically taught that activists for these other causes are either out of touch with their priorities, way too radical or just plain wrong. Being most prominently a cannabis-legalization activist, I am always frustrated to tears when I hear people who "agree" with me but tell me they think there are "bigger issues." They are correct, but the "bigger issue" is a common one all these causes are fighting for:freedom.

Freedom. Or, as our Founding Fathers more commonly called it, liberty. Liberty is so important that they based the entire founding of the country upon it. As new bodies of unconstitutional control and government were created over the past 100 years, such as the Federal Reserve, the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, and by now countless others, these liberties were slowly eroded for our supposed benefit. Most recently, the few liberties we had left were all liquidated and priced as shares and put on an open market where corporations could play along as citizens too. Needless to say, after being beaten down in the aftermath of the housing bubble burst after the dot-com bust, most Americans couldn't afford to buy back much of their freedom. But there is one tiny little freedom left: your vote.

Yes, I can already see your eyes rolling after that. It's OK, I forgive your ignorance on this issue. Just hear me out.

We've all been taught that in theory your vote is very important to the whole idea of democracy. Not coincidentally, we are only taught these things when we're very young and still learning about Santa and the Tooth Fairy as well. Once we're old enough to actually vote, we're beginning to learn your vote doesn't actually matter much, that much of the system is rigged anyway so you have to vote for a Democrat or a Republican when you get your precious vote every four years because voting for a third party candidate is "throwing your vote away."

I have news for you: Our parents and grandparents have been doing it wrong.

It's not their fault. They've never known anything but a Democrat or Republican, and of course they can name plenty of third-party candidates that won a laughable percentage of the vote. But the only reason things just "are the way they are" is because we, the people, allow them to be. This election cycle I encourage everyone to think very hard about what it means to "throw your vote away." I believe that we’ve been throwing our vote away for more than 50 years on a two-party system that is controlled by the almighty dollar, which is in turn controlled by the super wealthy, foreign governments, the Federal Reserve and huge corporations. It’s time to stop throwing our vote away to the opponent of the candidate we hate the most, or to the candidate with the most money or the funniest Jon Stewart appearance or the most bumper stickers with his name on them around your hometown. In order to properly exercise your right to vote, vote for the candidate who will best represent your liberty and the liberty of those around you.

Google Gary Johnson and you’ll see that you probably won’t have to compromise on a few of the issues that matter to you in order to vote for him. Nor will he suddenly forget his promises when in office, as his track record as governor of New Mexico plainly shows. Don’t let the apathy machine drag you down and fool you into throwing your vote away again this election. We need real change now, and we won’t get it from two money-loaded candidates who are basically the same. Stop picking teams and spending too much money just to throw your vote away. Vote for Gary Johnson this November.

Spencer Pearson is a Columbia resident and former MU student. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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